Address of His Excellency Brigadier David Granger, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, to the Fifth Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Punta, Cana, Dominican Republic, January 25 2017.

CARICOM, CELAC and the citizen

Mr. President,

The delegation of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana wishes to record its deep gratitude to the Government and people of the Dominican Republic for their warm reception, gracious hospitality and efficient arrangements made for hosting this important Fifth Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.

Mr. President,

We thank His Excellency Danilo Medina for his leadership of the Community over the past year. We extend best wishes, for a successful tenure as incoming Pro-Tempore Chairman, to His Excellency Salvador Sánchez Cerén, President of the Republic of El Salvador.

We are meeting today where, 525 years ago, in what was then called the Santo Domingo, the Old World of Europe collided with the New World of the Caribbean and the Americas.  It was here that the first colonial settlement was established in the New World.

The Caribbean and Latin America have been victims of the conquistadores and of empires. We have suffered from foreign invasion and intervention. The labour of our people was exploited and the wealth of our countries expropriated for centuries, leaving behind a legacy of poverty and underdevelopment. We are now independent states.

CELAC brings together many different and diverse strands. The indigenous peoples of the Americas were joined by Europeans, Africans and Asians. The New World is a polyglot sphere.

CELAC is the means and opportunity to break with this past. It must distance itself from the culture of the conquistadores. It must reject the ways of the sword. It must condemn gunboat diplomacy.

CELAC must represent the promise of the New World in a new age.

CELAC stands the threshold of what promises to be a new era in global relations, the emerging era of the South.

CELAC is not merely a collection of states. It is also a community of citizens. This is a community of citizens who have inalienable rights, including the right to statehood, the right to the protection of the law, the right to life and the right to liberty.  This is a community in which there can be no such phenomenon as a ‘stateless’ person.

CELAC must defend the rights of all and of each of its citizens.

CELAC must ensure the safety of the lives and the security of livelihoods of the citizens of this region.

CELAC is an expression of the aspirations of the citizens of 33 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America.

CELAC is a vehicle for deepening regional integration, multilateral cooperation and bi-regional relations.

CELAC is a forum for articulating our common interests, shared principles and values.

CELAC must go beyond merely generating declarations. It must create mechanisms which will advance, in practical and tangible ways, the aims of our Community. CELAC must build doors not walls; gates not fences; bridges not blockades.

Guyana, the home of the Headquarters of the Caribbean Community, has assumed, this year, the Chairmanship of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).  The small states of the Caribbean have been engaged, for forty-four years, in an enterprise to deepen, widen and strengthen their integration movement.

CARICOM looks to CELAC to complement this integrative process especially in light of the varied economic, environmental and security threats we face.

CARICOM needs CELAC to help protect our countries from aggression and our citizens from abuse.

Mr. President,

The Proclamation of Latin America and Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, issued in Havana in 2014, is heartening in this regard. The ‘Proclamation’ made clear that “peace is a supreme asset and a legitimate aspiration of all peoples.” It proclaimed that: “preserving peace is a substantial element of Latin America and Caribbean integration.”

The ‘Proclamation’ affirmed CELAC’s “permanent commitment to solve disputes through peaceful means with the aim of uprooting forever [the] threat or use of force in our region…”

The Political Declaration of Quito of January 26, 2016 reaffirmed our commitment to consolidating Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace by condemning all attempts to violate the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of the member states of the Community.

CARICOM calls on CELAC to guarantee the practical implementation of this Proclamation and Declaration by establishing an architecture of peace. CELAC must erect institutions and agencies which possess the capability of preventing conflict, promoting peace and of pursuing peace-making initiatives in order to give meaning to the Region’s quest to be a Zone of Peace.

CARICOM is a community of small states which yearn for peace. Peace is fundamental to our pursuit of sustainable development for our citizens.

Mr. President,

The Political Declaration of Quito of January 2016 recognized the need to intensify efforts at building economic, social and environmental resilience.

The attainment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is premised on the simultaneous response to the varying interrelated challenges we face.

The small states of the Caribbean Community are extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels and extreme weather patterns caused by global warming. Rising sea levels threaten coastal households and livelihoods. They threaten tourism assets such as coral reefs, beaches and marine life, including vital fisheries stocks. Flood and droughts imperil coastal agriculture.

The Caribbean cannot overcome these challenges without cooperative action.

Mr. President,

Guyana is committed to a low-carbon, low-emission trajectory of development. We are on an irreversible course towards the establishment of a ‘green state’ which will evince emphasis on:

  • the protection of the environment, including our rich biodiversity;
  • the provision of environmental, eco-educational and ecological services;
  • the promulgation of practical measures to ensure climate adaptation;
  • the production of energy from renewable sources; and
  • the promotion of social cohesion and the building of an inclusive economy.

Mr. President,

CELAC is a partnership of small and large states of the region. It must satisfy the needs of all if it is to become an authentic vehicle for regional integration in the 21st century.

CELAC, above all, must be a community of citizens. This Community must protect and respect all of its citizens, whoever and wherever they are.

I thank you.